Testing e-Learning Templates is not Simply Adding Text and Media

01 Target Audience

(01.1) Anyone involved in e-Learning template commissioning, Instructional Design, and related roles.

02 Executive Summary

(02.1) Testing e-learning templates, like any software, is not simply a matter of adding text and media. Few clients understand this, so your first task is to explain what is involved.

(02.2) For the purposes of testing, each template requires the creation of a number of matrices. Once created, each matrix must be systematically completed, following the testing of each identified element.

(02.3) The process is repeated for each template, finally giving a series of results, for each identified element, within each template.

03 Structure of this Article

04 Terminology
05 Introduction
06 Understanding What the Client may not Understand
07 Template Testing
08 And Finally

04 Terminology

(04.1) Preview Mode
Refers to the functionality within e-learning development software that provides a display of the content, as it will be seen in the finished resource.

(04.2) S A
Abbreviation for Submit (button) Active.

05 Introduction

(05.1) As any software tester will tell you, testing e-learning templates, like any software, is not just a matter (in this case) of adding text and media.

(05.3) The simple fact is, few e-learning practitioners, and very few, if any, clients truly understand what is being asked when a client says…

(05.4) “I will send you some content, and I want you to use it to test our new e-learning templates, and report on the results. Eight hours will be more than enough, won’t it? Our non-instructional designers have picked-it-up really quickly, its very straight-forward to use.”

(05.5) The alarm bells are ringing already! So, how do you deal with this?

06 Understanding What the Client may not Understand

(06.1) The client may not understand:
  1. Template testing is not simply a matter of adding text and media;
  2. The value you bring as a professional. What understanding have “non-instructional designers” regarding the practices and methods of instructional design, and related activities?;
  3. Templates being straightforward to use, has relatively little bearing on what is involved in testing such templates.
(06.2) The first thing you must do, before entering into such an activity, is ensure the client has some appreciation of:
  1. What is involved in template testing;
  2. Your value as a professional.
Having covered the above two points, the issue raised by 06.1.3, above, should be clarified.

07 Template Testing

(07.1) The process involved with template testing is not complex, but requires structure, and an ability to execute repetitive tasks. An overview is given below, together with an example.

07.1 Step 1

(07.1.1) Each template will require the creation of a number of matrices. The number will be determined by the complexity of the template.

07.2 Step 2

(07.2.1) Each matrix is completed by recording:
1.    The antecedents (what you did/happened immediately before the test was applied);
2.    A description of the test;
3.    The consequences (what happened immediately after the test was applied).

(07.2.2) For those of you with a background in ‘traditional education’, you may recognise the above as the ABC Model for Behaviour Analysis (aka Behaviour Management). That is, Antecedents – Behaviour – Consequences.

(07.2.3) The analogy is logical in that, when testing templates, you are analyzing template behaviour under various circumstances, and seeking to understand what influences that behaviour, and what results.

(07.2.4) However, unlike seeking to understand the behaviour of people, the purpose of testing templates is ultimately to ‘break’ them. The logic being, if you have systematically tried to ‘break’ the templates and failed, the templates are robust and fit for purpose. Of course, this argument is only sound, if the testing is rigorous, and assumes nothing.

07.3 Step 3

(07.3.1) Results of the template test are summarized by reporting those elements failing to give the expected outcome(s). All matrices should be included as appendices to substantiate your report.

07.4 Example

(07.4.1) Imagine you are testing an e-Learning template of a multiple-choice question (MCQ), giving four distractors (incorrect answers), one correct answer, and no media (e.g. images, audio, video).

(07.4.2) A simplified matrix for testing the MCQ could comprise the following.

Matrix Title: MCQ – One correct answer – 4 distractors - No media

Element                    Antecedent        Test                             Consequences
Empty template        None                  None                          None
1st text element        None                  Add text and save      Saved 1
1st text element        Saved 1              Preview mode (PM)  Display 1
2nd text element       Saved 1              Add text and save     Saved 1-2
2nd text element       Saved 1-2           PM                            Display 1-2
3rd text element        Saved  1-2          Add text and save     Saved 1-3
3rd text element        Saved 1-3           PM                            Display 1-3
4th text element        Saved 1-3           Add text and save     Saved 1-4
4th text element        Saved 1-4           PM                            Display 1-4
5th text element        Saved 1-4           Add text and save     Saved 1-5
5th text element        Saved 1-5           PM                            Display 1-5
No answer selected   Display 1-5        Submit MCQ PM      ‘Submit’ inactive
2 answers selected    Display 1-5        1 ‘checked’                Last ‘checked’ S A
3 answers selected    Display 1-5        1 ‘checked’                Last ‘checked’ S A
4 answers selected    Display 1-5        1 ‘checked’                Last ‘checked’ S A
5 answers selected    Display 1-5        1 ‘checked’                Last ‘checked’ S A

(07.4.3) The matrix would continue with the individual selection of each incorrect answer, and the correct answer, together with the testing of navigation to the next and previous ‘screens’.

(07.4.4) The reasoning in support of such a meticulous approach is that, if, for example, all the text elements were completed, and then saved, it is possible to miss any ‘bugs’ that may exist when using each text element individually. It can be agued, each text element will use the same programmatic routine, however, this makes the assumption, ‘nothing can possibly go wrong’, which is not necessarily valid.

(07.4.5) This matrix does not include the testing of, for example, supportive elements within the ‘screen’, such as the Help function, Menu, Resources, and so on. Depending on the complexity of the Graphical User Interface, such testing may best be recorded in a dedicated matrix.

08 And Finally

(08.1) It is not difficult to imagine the time and discipline required to complete a test of a suite of e-Learning templates, and report on the findings, even if everything functions as expected.

(08.2) The time required to complete the testing will increase significantly, as the number of ‘bugs’ detected increase.

(08.3) The primary testing of e-Learning templates is, in my experience, rarely undertaken by individuals not involved in the programming of those templates, and for good reason. However, if you find yourself in this position, ensure your client understands what is involved. Alternatively, suggest the template developers conduct such testing.

08.1 Use of this article
(08.1.1) Any part, or all, of this article may be copied or ‘hyperlinked to’ for non-commercial purposes. Any copied content or hyperlink to include the following, please…

Testing e-Learning Templates is not just Adding Text and Media
by Tim Cliffe Copyright 2015-03

(08.1.2) Where use will be for commercial purposes, seek authorisation, including details of proposed use, via the contact form at http://www.TimCliffe.uk/contact/